Whether you have a brilliant idea for a startup or go on expanding your business, you probably already had considerations about your own website. As a rule, at the beginning, a non-tech savvy entrepreneur does not think much about the platforms, frameworks, and ways of implementation of the features. But when you start digging into the roots of this question, first of all, you may come across the choice between custom website development and off-the-shelf CMS platform. Let’s clarify what’s the difference.
An off-the-shelf CMS means software that provides a set of pre-defined features for content management that can be customized according to the requirements. Most of them are open-source code platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.). Customization can be done with free or paid plugins. Both have some merits and demerits. Free ones have the security issue and on the other hand, paid plugins, increase the website cost. The flip side of these platforms is constant problems with security. Also if there will be a necessity of additional functionalities, that are not fulfilled with plugins, it will require rare, high-level skilled developers, who are very expensive, to modify existing plugins or create new ones.
A custom website is a system built from scratch with the help of a programming language (for ex., PHP) to meet the owner’s business needs. It means that a team of developers will select the best-suited way to create a fully customizable solution that belongs only to you and strictly matches to your expectations. Before asking how to build a custom website, start with checking out the benefits of this approach:
- Lower total cost of ownership
Let’s find out why these advantages are worth it!
Sleep tight! Your Website Is Firmly Secured
We hope that you won’t deny that the security of your business information is the top priority. Then you should be aware that most of the canned CMS platforms are constant objects of massive hacker attacks. The most obvious reasons are as follows:
- The off-the-shelf platforms are worldwide known, massively used (WordPress covers 60% of the market) and easy to find which makes them attractive goals for hackers.
- Thousands of people download an open-source code to learn it. But people are different, and if, on finding some weak spot in security, one person will inform the platform developers to fix the problem, the other person can use this knowledge for malicious purposes (like sharing on the hackers’ forums).
- When there is a breach in the CMS, hackers can attack all websites on the same service “in bulk”. Even though the patches are quickly issued, the problem will stay unresolved until the user apply them to make the version of his/her website up-to-date.
Even if your project does not deal with transactions and sensitive information, hackers still may be interested in getting access to your content. Let’s say that you write a blog. The “bad guys” can make such actions as substituting of the content to something inappropriate, inserting the links to other sites to increase the reference mass, or installing malware on your server. Sometimes you will not even notice that something is wrong.
On the diagram below reported by Sucuri, you can see that it was the leaders of the CMS market (WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Drupal) that were the most hacked in 2016.
So the benefits in terms of security that you obtain when you make your own custom website are:
- A professional team ensures security with all possible measures from the very beginning.
- Developers use only trusted third-party libraries and software.
- Sensitive information is protected with encryption algorithms and token values i.e. replaced with special symbols, which is especially important in the e-commerce and banking operations.
- The code is accessible only to your team of developers and it becomes inaccessible for download and examination by unauthorized people searching for vulnerabilities.
As an example, one of our customers shared with us their negative previous experience of creating a simple blog on WordPress that had been hacked already in a month since its launch. Unfortunately, this is not a rare case. It was the security motive that influenced their decision to transfer their project to the custom-made solution.
But we are not going to discourage you from using the off-the-shelf CMSes as long as their services match to your purposes. Be careful and consider all pros and cons in terms of security before you start.
Feel the Freedom of Unlimited Flexibility
While the worldwide known off-the-shelf CMS tools work well for many solutions, they still have restrictions and usually specialize only in particular areas. Building a custom website from the ground up gives you freedom of implementing functionalities that exactly reflect your needs.
If you decide to create a custom website, you will not be constrained in your ambition of adding brand-new, complex, or specific features. Of course, the off-the-shelf CMSs usually allow modification of their plugins, but you will have to go on compromises as, with the course of time, the project will grow and require more and more modifications.
Among the advantages of custom website development that deal with flexibility, we can also highlight better performance. Why does it matter? The growth of traffic, the extension of your project with new features, and increase of stored data can slow down the performance of WordPress and similar platforms. Custom website developers usually look ahead for providing good scalability, when the performance will enhance proportionally under increased load.
Can Be Cheaper in the Long Run
Though launching a website on the off-the-shelf CMS platform is initially cheaper than from scratch, the further customization and upgrade of your “out-of-the-box” solution with new features can require buying an expensive premium plan and plugins.
Even though many (but not all) plugins are free, after a while you may find that modifications become more and more difficult to do and the cost of such work significantly grows. Sooner or later you may come to the understanding that the maintenance of a custom solution could be easier and cheaper.
When Custom is Too Much
It would be unfair to claim the custom web development as the only right solution for your business. On the contrary, for some cases, an off-the-shelf approach is more desirable.
The custom website development looks inappropriate if you need a quick launch of a simple idea (blog, small e-commerce, product catalog) for which the pre-built functionalities can be enough, and there is no need for complex logic.
For instance, we can tell about one of our customers. To prove the viability of their new business idea dealing with factoring, they used an off-the-shelf platform. The one-page website was to present their services and receive the first clients through the web form. All other processing was made manually. As soon as their business picked up the speed, they came to Greenice for a custom-made solution that could automatically process all the tasks.
What’s the Verdict?
People often come to us with the question why it is better to have a custom than an off-the-shelf solution. And the first thing that we can advise is to clarify the requirements as much as possible. The trick is that while free or partially-free content management systems are good in many cases (like blogging, e-commerce websites, simple CRM functions), they are often far from the best choice for more complex and unique projects.
If your initial roadmap anticipates constant implementation of new features, it is more cost-efficient to regard a custom website development solutions from the very beginning. Besides, different platforms are designated for different purposes and sometimes may require technical involvement to customize some features.
Nevertheless, if you’ll find a ready “out-of-the-box” solution that covers no less than 80% of your MVP functionalities, it may be worth trying. Thus, you will save time and money as your first and foremost goal is to launch your project in the shortest time. As the project starts working, you will see all the bottlenecks. If they are not critical for you, then such solution will be enough, and only right customization will be needed. And even if you decide to throw this project away, you’ll have a great experience that can be useful when you select a custom website development for your next startup.
We prepared a short list of statements for a quick self-check if a custom website is the right choice for you. Say “yes” or “no” for the following:
- You are going to deal with sensitive data (customers personal profiles, transactions info, production secrets etc.) that should be safe and sound
- You plan to add new features in the future as your company keeps on growing
- You are not a tech savvy person to be able to modify plugins
- You want to focus on the business goals rather than technical implementation
- You believe in your project, and that it will expand, attract a large audience and be scalable
If all or most of the answers are YES, the preference should be given to the custom-built website. Do not hesitate to ask your vendor or developers whom you want to hire to provide you with their case study portfolio to understand their level of expertise in projects like yours.
*The opinions expressed in this article of those of the authors at Greenice and do not reflect those of Techaeris or its staff.
Last Updated on September 12, 2019.